Spanish For Dummies®

Table of Contents


What’s Special about Spanish?

About This Book

Why We Wrote This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organised

Part I: Getting Started

Part II: Spanish in Action

Part III: Spanish on the Go

Part IV: The Part of Tens

Part V: Appendixes

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Getting Started

Chapter 1: Realising that You Know a Little Spanish Already

Recognising the Spanish You Know Already

Watching out for false friends

Getting to know some crossover influences

Reciting Your ABCs

Checking out consonants

Finding out about vowels

Discovering diphthongs

Looking at Pronunciation and Stress

Searching for stress, normally

Spotting accented vowels

Understanding accents in diphthongs

¡Punctuation Plus!

Some Basic Phrases to Know

Chapter 2: Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty: Basic Spanish Grammar

Constructing Simple Sentences

Forming Questions

Introducing Regular and Irregular Verbs

Regular verbs

Irregular verbs

Hiding Pronouns: Él or Ella?

Getting the Hang of that Whole Gender Thing

Appreciating articles

Adding adjectives

Counting Numbers

Getting to Know You: The Tú/Usted Issue

Part II: Spanish in Action

Chapter 3: ¡Hola! Hello! Greetings and Introductions

Greeting Formally or Informally

Using Names and Surnames

Discovering what’s in a name

Meeting the verb llamarse

Getting Introductions Right: Solemn and Social

Introducing yourself formally

Presenting yourself informally

Feeling Free to Be the Way You Are

Being permanent: ser

Conjugating ser (to be)

Saying adios to pronouns

Knowing a second ‘be’ for your bonnet: Estar

Speaking about Speaking: Hablar

Chapter 4: Getting to Know You: Making Small Talk

Using the Key Questions: Six Ws and Two Hs

Keeping an Eye on the Weather

Understanding the Verb Entender

Getting to Know People and Families

Living with Vivir: The Verb to Live

Discovering Diminutives

Chapter 5: Dining Out and Going to Market

¡Buen Provecho! Enjoy Your Meal!

Tackling table terms

Eating and drinking phrases

Using Three Verbs at the Table

Taking and drinking: The verb tomar

Drinking only: The verb beber

Tucking in: The verb comer

Eating Out: Trying Spanish Food at the Restaurant

Getting What You Want: The Verb Querer

Using the Shopping Verb: Comprar

Shopping Around: At the Market

Purchasing fresh fruit

Buying vegetables

Shopping for fish

Knowing the measures: Weight and volume

Calling into the Supermercado

Counting Numbers

Chapter 6: Shopping Made Easy

Hitting the Shops

Using the Verb Probar (To Try)

Creating a colourful you

Shopping for shirts and trousers

Checking fibres and fabrics

Wearing and Taking: The Verb Llevar

Making Comparisons: Good, Better, Best and More

Exaggerating: When Superlatives Fail

Shopping for Finer Objects

Shopping in Open-Air Markets

Rooting out typical market items: An affordable treasure trove

Bargaining at the open-air market

Buying glass, ceramics, silver and wood

Purchasing unique clothes

Searching out shoes and bags

Chapter 7: Organising a Night on the Town

Understanding that Timing Is Everything

Having a Good Time

Inviting and Being Invited: Invitar

Dancing the Night Away: Bailar

Enjoying Yourself at Shows and Events

Going to the cinema

Taking in a show

Visiting art galleries and museums

Laughing at a comedy show

Launching a book

Singing For Your Supper: Cantar

Chapter 8: Enjoying Yourself: Recreation

Venturing Outdoors: The Good and the Bad

Strolling Along: Pasear

Appreciating Trees and Plants

Searching Out Animals

Saying What You Like: Gustar

Becoming Active with Sport

Playing with the verb jugar

Enjoying the ‘beautiful game’: Fútbol

Zoning in on basketball

Serving up tennis

Getting on your bike

Splashing About: Nadar

Checking Out Chess

Booking in Some Reading Time: Leer

Scribbling Away: Escribir

Chapter 9: Talking on the Telephone

Starting Out with Your Opening Line

Dealing with ‘Porridge’ (When You Can’t Make Out the Words)

Thinking about ‘Spelling Out’

Calling on the Phone: Llamar

Spotting Phone-y Verbs: To Call, to Leave, and to Listen and Hear

You called? The past tense of llamar

Did you leave a message? The past tense of dejar

Have you heard? The past tense of escuchar

Chapter 10: Looking Around the Home and Office

Talking at Work and About Work

Considering the height of buildings

Conversing at work

Discovering Work-related Phrases and Idioms

Getting down to business with ‘Asunto’

Employing the hiring verb: Emplear

Doing and making: Hacer

Speaking about Houses and Homes

Gaining rental wisdom

Renting a home: Alquilar

Part III: Spanish on the Go

Chapter 11: Money, Money, Money

Cashing In With Some Basic Money Phrases

Operating Cash Machines

Wielding Your Credit Card

Using Traveller’s Cheques in Spain

Changing and Exchanging: Cambiar

Exchanging Your Pounds for Euros

Chapter 12: Asking Directions: ¿Dónde Está? (Where Is It?)

Asking the Question for Going Places: ¿Dónde?

Working Out Where to Go: ¿Dónde Vamos?

Orienting the Space Around You

Understanding Spatial Directions

Mapping the Place

Taking You Up: Subir

Lowering You Down: Bajar

Heading Here, There and Everywhere

Counting Ordinal Numbers

Knowing How Far To Go: Cerca and Lejos

Chapter 13: Checking into a Hotel

Checking Out the Hotel Before You Check in

Wondering About the Water

Sleeping Soundly: Dormir

Waking Up: Despertar

Being Possessive

Possessive adjectives

Possessive pronouns

Chapter 14: Getting Around: Planes, Trains, Taxis and More

Arriving in Spain

Dealing with the customs office

Registering your camera, computer and other expensive equipment

Finding a Train Station

Bringing and Carrying: Traer

Choosing Taxi or Bus

Addressing Driving Concerns

Carrying your driving licence

Reading road signs

Renting a Car

Preparing to drive

Hitting the road

Scheduling Issues: Running Late, Early or On Time

Using the Outgoing Verb: Salir

Employing the Waiting Verb: Esperar

Travelling Around in the City

Chapter 15: Planning a Trip

Making Travel Plans

Planning for the Weather

Timing Your Trip: Picking a month

Mastering Visas and Passports

Using the Verb to Go: Ir

Travelling into the simple future: Ir a viajar

Scheduling hours and minutes

Packing For Your Visit

Taking Along Your Computer

Chapter 16: Handling Emergencies

Shouting for Help

Handling Health Problems

Helping out: Using ayudar

Assisting yourself with reflexive pronouns

Expressing pain when you’re hurt

Telling where it hurts

Describing symptoms

Braving the dentist

‘Insuring’ that you get reimbursed

Getting Help with Legal Problems

Sticking ’em up

Reporting to the police

Using the Searching Verb: Buscar

Part IV: The Part of Tens

Chapter 17: Ten Ways to Speak Spanish Quickly

Visiting Spain

Mingling with Local Spanish Speakers

Listening to Radio, TV and the Internet

Renting a Film

Checking Out Your Library

Reading Lyrics and Liner Notes

Using Stickers

Saying It Again, Sam

Taking a Spanish Class

Finding Yourself a Tutor

Chapter 18: Ten (Plus Two) Favourite Spanish Expressions

¿Qué tal?

¿Cómo estás?

¿Qué pasa?

¿Cómo van las cosas?

¡De primera!

¿Cuánto cuesta?

¿Cómo dices?

¡Un atraco!

¡Una ganga!

¡Buen provecho!


¡Buen viaje!

Chapter 19: Ten Holidays to Remember

Año Nuevo

La Feria de Sevilla

Las Fallas de Valencia


Semana Santa

Los San Fermines

Las Costas en Invierno

Los Paradores de Turismo en España

Taking a City Break

Planning Your Own Holiday

Chapter 20: Ten Phrases That Make You Sound Fluent in Spanish

¡Agarrar el toro por los cuernos!

¡Esta es la mía!

¿Y eso con qué se come?

Voy a ir de fiesta

Caer fatal

Nos divertimos en grande

Verselas negras para

Pasó sin pena ni gloria

¡Así a secas!

¡La cosa va viento en popa!

Part V: Appendixes

Appendix A: Mini Dictionary

Appendix B: Spanish Verbs

Appendix C: About the CD

Appendix D: Spanish Facts

End User License Agreement


Go to to access Wiley’s ebook EULA.

Spanish For Dummies®


About the Authors

Pedro Vázquez Bermejo is a leading Spanish communicator, teacher, translator and interpreter living in London. He was born in the Spanish region of Extremadura (the land of the Conquistadores!) and grew up in Madrid, before settling down in London.

After studying sociology at Madrid’s University Complutense in the late 1980s, Pedro developed a real passion for modern languages. He now specialises in teaching Spanish to all ages and levels of ability, from young multilingual children to retired enthusiastic academics. He holds both one-to-one and group sessions, including his innovative, absorbing and entertaining Spanish classes at the BBC headquarters in London.

The varied work Pedro has undertaken includes acting as a corporate interpreter and as a Spanish voiceover coordinator on educational interactive videos and multilingual historical role games. He is also a multilingual corporate image producer, and his work in this area has included producing some award-winning international corporate DVDs.

Pedro also holds a High Certificate in Foreign Commerce from the Chamber of Commerce of Madrid, and a masters degree in marketing and business administration.

Pedro is very personable and his excellent communication skills are imbued with warmth, humour and patience. He speaks in a standard Castilian Spanish accent, with pleasing and crystal-clear pronunciation. He also has a personal repertoire of Spanglish jokes and sayings, and is capable of ‘talking the hind legs off a donkey’ – try translating that into Spanish! He is never short of ideas for keeping the language (lengua in Spanish) rolling!

Susana Wald is a writer and a simultaneous and literary translator in Spanish, English, French and Hungarian. As a publisher, she has been working with books and authors for many years. She has been a teacher in Chile and Canada and has known the joy of learning from her students and their untiring enthusiasm and tolerance. She is also an artist and has had her work shown in many countries in North, Central and South America, and in Europe.


Authors’ Acknowledgements

My thanks go to everyone who has helped to keep my blood pressure down throughout the time I’ve spent working on this book (excluding English tea and Spanish coffee)! I can now relax and acknowledge the following:

I thank my always-admired publishers, Wiley, and specifically my charming and professional commissioning editor, Wejdan Ismail, for finding and selecting me for the ‘Spanish job’ and for her great support; thanks also to my development editor, Steve Edwards, for always being so patient and encouraging.

Thanks, also, to all my pupils – especially the kids for their inspiration and laughter. Their passion for exploring language and communication makes all my efforts worthwhile!

I also thank my adorable Dee and my own family members – my dad Gregorio, mum Felisa, auntie Use and beloved super-sister Carlota. I acknowledge the support to the cerebral side of things provided by my bilingual friend, Fiona Campbell, and thank José Luís Ruíz-Calero García-Gil from Madrid for his enviable command of Spanish writing skills and for his friendship. Last but not least, thanks of course go to our favourite companions on our weekend walks in the forests of Kent – Chessie (a gorgeous border collie señorita) and Lily (the most enchanting miniature cocker spaniel niña), both of whom can now bark in a useful and fashionable Spanish!

Pedro Vázquez Bermejo

I would like to thank Wiley for the splendid idea of publishing these truly novel books. My thanks go as well to Jean Antonin Billard, greatest amongst the greatest translators. I must also mention that I owe Juergen Lorenz the structure of the text, as well as his friendly help with its first birthpangs.

And I thank from the heart the unflagging editorial help of Kathy Cox, at Wiley, who kept my spirit from sinking at all times, as well as Tammy Castleman, Patricia Pan, Billie Williams and Kathleen Dobie, who contributed their excellent copy editing skills. Thanks and excuses are also due to my lifetime partner, Ludwig Zeller, who for months saw mostly the back of my head while my face was glued to the monitor of my computer. May we all have a happy life.

Susana Wald

Publisher’s Acknowledgements

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Commissioning, Editorial, and Media Development

Development Editor: Steve Edwards

Content Editor: Jo Theedom

Commissioning Editor: Wejdan Ismail

Assistant Editor: Jennifer Prytherch

Proofreader: Andy Finch

Technical Editor: Maria Violeta Millins Alarcón

Production Manager: Daniel Mersey

Cover Photos: © Gavin Hellier/JAI/Corbis

Cartoons: Ed McLachlan

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Lynsey Stanford

Layout and Graphics: Claudia Bell, Carl Byers, Christine Williams

Proofreaders: Melissa Cossell, John Greenough

Indexer: Valerie Haynes Perry


As society becomes more international in nature, knowing how to say at least a few words in other languages becomes increasingly useful: low-cost airfares are making travel abroad a more realistic option, global business environments necessitate overseas travel or you just may have friends and neighbours who speak other languages.

Whatever your reason for acquiring some Spanish, this book can help. Spanish For Dummies gives you the skills you need for basic communication in Spanish. We’re not promising fluency here, but if you want to greet someone, purchase a ticket or order off a menu in Spanish, you need look no further than Spanish For Dummies.

What’s Special about Spanish?

Spanish is one of the great European languages, rich in heritage from more than nine centuries of existence. This language comes from the central region of Spain called Castilla (kahs-tee-yah) (Castile) and is also the language of much great literature.

The first European novel – as a matter of fact, the first novel in the modern sense – was written in Spanish by Miguel de Cervantes. You’ve probably heard about Don Quixote, the ‘enthusiastic visionary’. His adventures have even become part of the English language: the word quixotic describes someone with an odd, eccentric or utterly-regardless-of-material-interests attitude.

Spanish is also the language of great poets. Many Nobel Prize winners in literature are Spanish-speaking, including the poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.

When Cristobal Colón (Christopher Columbus) and other Spanish explorers came to the New World of the Americas, Spanish became the language of all the peoples from Florida to Tierra del Fuego at the extreme tip of South America (with the exception of Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken).

When you go to places such as Spain, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras or Nicaragua, you speak in or are spoken to in Spanish. If you visit cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Seville, Santiago de Chile, Montevideo, Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Lima, Caracas, Bogota, Mexico City, Quito, San Juan and many, many others, all the people you find speak Spanish.

So you have several reasons to embrace this beautiful language. You may want to understand the culture and the people and you may also want some future new Spanish friends to understand you, in their own language.

About This Book

Although you may think that ‘Spanish is Spanish’, things aren’t quite that simple. The Spanish language carried to the New World by the Conquistadores (kohn-kees-tah-doh-rehs) (Spanish conquerors) developed over time in its own way, and at its own speed. Alternative words and conventions increased until the Spanish spoken in Latin American countries became, if not a different language, certainly one with a very different personality to the standard Spanish spoken in Spain.

This book concentrates on standard, contemporary Spanish – known as Castellano – meaning the Spanish spoken in Spain itself, even in regions such as the Basque Country or Cataluña where it may not be the language that people habitually use. By getting to grips with Castellano, you can be understood anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world, including Latin America.

This book isn’t a class that you have to drag yourself to twice a week for a specified period of time. You can use Spanish For Dummies however you want to, whether your goal is to know some words and phrases to help you get around when you visit the Canaries, Balearics or mainland Spain, or you simply want to be able to say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ to a Spanish-speaking friend. This book can help you reach moments of true understanding in a different language. Use the text as a language and cultural guide for those moments when you really need to know how and why things are done.

Go through this book at your own pace, reading as much or as little at a time as you like. Also, you don’t have to trudge through the chapters in order; just read the sections that interest you. And don’t forget to practise by using the CD at the back of this book for help in pronunciation and inflection. The only way to know and love a language is to speak it. Throughout the book, we give you lots of words, phrases and dialogues, complete with pronunciations. The CD provides you with a broad sample of these, which should serve most of your basic needs.

If you’ve never taken Spanish lessons before, you may want to read the chapters in Part I before tackling the later chapters. Part I gives you some of the basics that you need to know about the language, such as how to pronounce the various sounds.

Why We Wrote This Book

Language exposes you to every aspect of the human condition, allowing you to study the past, understand the present and ponder the future. Language sometimes changes the ways in which people express various emotions and conditions. People are connected through their ability to speak, but you can go one step further – to understanding – by being able to communicate in another language. Very few things are as exciting as that!

The best way to discover a new language is to immerse yourself in it. Listen to the way Spanish sounds, concentrate on the pronunciation and look at how it’s written. By listening and repeating, you enter a new world of ideas and peoples. Acquiring Spanish through immersion really does feel like a sort of magic.

Conventions Used in This Book

To make this book easy for you to navigate, we set up a few conventions:

Spanish terms are set in boldface to make them stand out.

Pronunciations, set in brackets in italics, follow the Spanish terms.

Verb conjugations (lists that show you the forms of a verb) are given in tables in this order: yo, the ‘I’ form; , the ‘you’ (singular) form, él, ella, usted, the ‘he/she/it’ form; nosotros, the ‘we’ form; vosotros, the ‘you’ (plural/formal) form; and ellos, ellas, the ‘they’ form. Pronunciations follow in the second column. Here’s an example (of the verb llevar, meaning to take or carry):


Studying a language is a peculiar beast, and so this book includes a few elements that other For Dummies books do not. Here are those new elements:

Talkin’ the Talk dialogues: The best way to improve with a language is to see and hear how it’s used in conversation, and so we include dialogues throughout the book. The dialogues come under the heading ‘Talkin’ the Talk’ and show you the Spanish words, the pronunciation and the English translation.

Words to Know blackboards: Memorising key words and phrases is also important in language, and so we collect the important words that appear in a chapter (or section within a chapter) and write them on a ‘blackboard’, under the heading ‘Words to Know’.

Fun & Games activities: If you don’t have Spanish speakers with whom to practise your new language skills, you can use the Fun & Games activities to reinforce what you’re discovering. These word games are fun ways to gauge your progress.

Also, because each language has its own ways of expressing ideas, the English translations that we provide for the Spanish terms may not be literal. We want you to know the gist of what’s being said, not just the words being said. For example, you can translate the Spanish phrase de nada (deh nah-dah) literally as ‘of nothing’, but the phrase really means ‘you’re welcome’. This book gives the ‘you’re welcome’ translation.

Foolish Assumptions

To write this book, we had to make some assumptions about you and what you want from a book called Spanish For Dummies:

You know no Spanish – or if you took Spanish in school, you don’t remember a word of it.

You’re not looking for a book to make you fluent in Spanish; you just want to know some words, phrases and sentence constructions so that you can communicate basic information in Spanish.

You don’t want to have to memorise long lists of vocabulary words or a bunch of boring grammar rules.

You want to have fun and discover a bit of Spanish at the same time.

If these statements apply to you, you’ve found the right book!

How This Book Is Organised

This book is divided by topic into parts, and then into chapters. The following sections tell you what types of information you can find in each part.

Part I: Getting Started

You get your feet wet in this part as we give you some Spanish basics: how to pronounce words, what the accents mean and so on. We even boost your confidence by reintroducing you to some Spanish words that you probably already know. In addition, we outline the basics of Spanish grammar that you may need to know when you work through more detailed chapters of the book.

Part II: Spanish in Action

In this part, you begin practising and using Spanish. Instead of focusing on grammar points, as many language textbooks do, this part focuses on everyday situations in which you may find yourself if you’re living in a Spanish-speaking country or dealing with your Spanish-speaking friends. This part hones your small-talk skills and takes you on shopping and dining excursions. At the end of this part, you should be able to do some basic navigation in the Spanish language.

Part III: Spanish on the Go

This part provides the tools you need to take your Spanish on the road, whether you’re going to a local Spanish restaurant or a museum in Madrid. These chapters help you to survive the Customs process, check into hotels and nab a cab, and have a great time doing it. Sprinkled throughout are cultural titbits that introduce you to people, places and things that are important in Spanish culture.

Part IV: The Part of Tens

If you’re looking for small, easily digestible pieces of information about Spanish, this part is for you. Here, you can find ways to speak Spanish quickly, useful Spanish expressions to know and celebrations worth joining.

Part V: Appendixes

This part of the book includes important information that you can use for reference. We include verb tables that show you how to conjugate a regular verb, and then how to conjugate those verbs that stubbornly refuse to fit the pattern. We also provide a listing of the tracks that appear on the audio CD that comes with this book so that you can find out where in the book those dialogues are and follow along. We give you a mini-dictionary in both Spanish-to-English and English-to-Spanish formats and provide some brief facts about the Spanish language in the modern world.

Icons Used in This Book

You may be looking for particular information while reading this book. To make certain types of information easier for you to find, we place the following icons in the left-hand margins throughout the book:

remember.epsWe use this icon to indicate crucial pieces of information that you need to bear in mind.

tip.epsThis icon highlights tips that can make Spanish easier for you.

GrammaticallySpeaking.epsLanguages are full of quirks that may trip you up if you’re not prepared for them. This icon points to discussions of these weird grammatical rules.

culturalwisdom.epsIf you’re looking for information and advice about culture and travel, look for this icon.

cd_w_phones.epsThe audio CD that comes with this book gives you the opportunity to listen to real Spanish speakers so that you get a better understanding of what Spanish sounds like. This icon marks the Talkin’ the Talk dialogues that you can find on the CD.

Where to Go from Here

Discovering a new language is all about jumping in and giving it a try (no matter how bad your pronunciation is at first). So make the leap! Start at the beginning, pick a chapter that interests you or pop the CD into your stereo or computer and listen to a few dialogues. Above all, make sure that you have fun!

Wiley publishes in a variety of print and electronic formats and by print-on-demand. Some material included with standard print versions of this book may not be included in e-books or in print-on-demand. If this book refers to media such as a CD or DVD that is not included in the version you purchased, you may download this material at For more information about Wiley products, visit

Part I

Getting Started

688151 pp0101.eps

In this part . . .

This part dips your feet gently into the water and gives you some Spanish basics: pronunciation, the meaning of accents and so on. We reintroduce you to some Spanish words that you probably already know and outline the basics of Spanish grammar.